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The Women in Otolaryngology General Assembly: A Strong Approach on Collaboration

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The Women in Otolaryngology (WIO) lunch session had grown enormously since its inception when 15–20 women met informally during the Academy meeting. After rousing introductions by AAO President-Elect Kathleen Yaremchuk and BOG Chair-Elect Karen Rizzo, the subcommittees gave their reports. The hosts then announced the winners of the Exemplary Senior Trainee Award, the He for She Award, and the Helen F. Krause Trailblazer award.

After the gratefully received comments from the sponsors, the keynote speech, moderated by Dr. Amy Chen from Emory University and delivered by Dr. Naomi Rothman, discussed the topic of emotional ambivalence. Entitled “Harnessing the Hidden Power of Your Mixed Feelings,” Dr. Rothman discussed ambivalence as a strength. Starting early in her career, she learned to honor ambivalence and see it as a professional strength. Derived from having both positive and negative thoughts on a topic, ambivalence, she argued, allows one to avoid “premature certainty” and pushes one to explore different vantage points. Illustrated through several vignettes and personal experiences, Dr. Rothman researched the behavior of subjects exposed to ambivalence in negotiation and other interactions. Whereas ambivalence can be considered an invitation for dominance, according to Dr. Rothman, it can also be an invitation to be more curious and to seek advice from others. These attributes make an individual more accurate and a team more innovative.

Early data suggest that women may be more “willing” to report ambivalence and further studies are ongoing. The benefits of having an open mind are evident, especially when there is time to engage in open dialogue. In otolaryngology, team-based care is a field where ambivalence can help find an optimal solution to a challenging problem. Team members can become more innovative when within an interdependent and collaborative relationship. Some strategies to better harness our ambivalence include inviting patients to share their perspectives and creating a plan together. The real benefit of opening people’s minds is to allow additional innovation.

The speakers asked the audience to consider listening to one’s ambivalence and not suppressing it. It inspires those around us when we show our ambivalence, maybe even more so as a leader. Inclusive leadership appears to achieve more effective performance. Organizational culture can improve if ones see an opportunity to learn, rather than having a know-it-all approach.

In conclusion, the talk emphasized fueling success through collaboration and not just competition. Especially in innovative fields such as otolaryngology, an open-minded approach appears to have many benefits.

Dr. Drake is employed by UNC School of Medicine. She has no conflicts of interest to report.

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